Analysis / Steven Universe
I recently binge-watched every Steven Universe
episode in a week (as of this writing, until “Friend Ship”), and I must say that I loved the series. And I'm writing this piece of text to analyze one of the aspects that I liked the most: Pearl's character arc.
If I mention “Friend Ship”, a lot of people will summarize it as “the episode in which Pearl and Garnet finally make up”. But it's much more than that. It's actually “The culmination of Pearl's Character Arc
, as well as the beginning of her Character Development
So, during the powerful and heart-wrenching scene Pearl tells Garnet how she truly feels: she always though of herself as weak and full of insecurities, always needing of somebody to tell her what to do. Now, in order to get a better insight of this emotional confession, we have to go back in time.
First, taking this into account, let's talk about her relationship with Rose, and Rose herself. Rose was the leader of the Rebellion, a powerful, beautiful and charismatic gem, and a tactical genius to boost. So we have one gem who thinks of herself as worthless, in a (sort of) relationship with another gem that everybody, including her enemies, admires, respects and looks up to. So is no surprise here that Pearl pretty much defines herself almost exclusively through her relationship with Rose. It appears that she takes more pride in being Rose's lover (not exactly clear if Rose loved her back that way, or if she was even aware of it) and confidant rather than anything she herself did on her own. She thinks she has nothing to offer and is amazed that somebody as great as Rose would choose to be with her.
Another thing that I found interesting is that of all the gems, Pearl seems to be the one who shows the least respects for humanity and Earth, the same species and planet Rose fought for at the expense of her being labeled a traitor and being banned from her world forever. You can't help but wonder that if Pearl had such low opinion on humans, why did she follow Rose. And the answer would be that she didn't care much about what they were fighting for as long as she got to be with Rose
(Rose's Scabbard supports this idea). Which is kind of scary if you think about it.
The episode “Sworn to the Sword” brings more light into this, and shows a very interesting parallel between Pearl/Rose and Steven/Connie. The episode shows how Pearl not only trains Connie just to fight, but to pretty much toss her life away for Steven's sake. Pearl made Connie think how her life was less worthy than Steven's, just like how Pearl's own life was less worthy than Rose's. It was something easy because Connie also had something of an inferiority complex (with some shades of I Just Want to Be Special
) regarding Steven.
However, this is when the differences come to play: Steven is utterly apalled of the idea of Connie dying for him. He clearly sees Connie as his equal, and wants Connie to see him in the same way, hence that's why he wants Connie to fight with
him, not for
him. Steven convinces Connie of this, and together they confront Pearl. Pearl wins the fight nevertheless, but the argument that follows is something she's not prepared for. Upon realizing how toxic Pearl's ideas of dying for others are, and upon hearing Pearl's Freudian Slip
, Connie probably asks a question that definitely takes Pearl aback:
Connie: Did Rose make you feel like you were nothing?
Because that's pretty much how Pearl made Connie think of herself regarding Steven. Pearl replies that it was the opposite, but this is obviously not true. Unlike Steven and Connie, Pearl clearly did not see Rose as an equal, but somebody greater than her. A relationship can't be healthy if one part is “better” than the other. Steven knew this, and made Connie realize of this truth. In the end, Pearl agrees to train both Steven and Connie to fight together, maybe realizing of the flaws of her relationship with Rose, as well as her own character.
Now, we go back again to “Friend Ship”. After Pearl's confession, this is Garnet's reply:
Garnet: It's not easy being in control. I have weaknesses too. But I choose not to let them consume me. I struggle to stay strong because I know the impact I have on everyone. Please understand, Pearl. You have an impact too. There are times when I look up to you for strength. You are your own gem. You control your destiny. Not me, not Rose, not Steven. But you must choose to be strong, so we can move forward. So I can trust you again.
So Pearl though most of her life “I'm worthless”. And, upon hearing this, Garnet told her “No, you're NOT”.
Now we get a better insight of Pearl's relationship with Rose as a way for her self-realization, and how once Rose wasn't there anymore she felt completely lost. But now, finally somebody told her something she desperately needed to hear, that she doesn't need to depend on other people to be strong, that she can be, and is, strong on her own. This is the culmination of her Character Arc
Now that that's out of the way, she can finally move on from her crush on Rose as well as her loss, and realize that she doesn't need others to feel strong or validated. Evidenced in Back to the Barn, when Pearl stands up to Peridot's flagrantly prejudiced Homeworld views, challenging them directly (even saying she belonged to no one... not even to Rose or Steven). Even with her narrow loss in an out-and-out fist fight, the words of encouragement from Steven and the other Gems only solidifies her personal growth as an individual.